Thursday 14 October 2010

Placing faith in the angelic symphony

Many moon shapes ago, whilst still living in Glasgow and finding myself momentarily inconvenienced by a rampantly out of control joie de vivre, I volunteered to host a creative writing class for socially malfunctioning scum. Community spirit: can’t beat it.

No, please, I used to be part of the world (up to a point) and you may even say that I tried. I once bought forty million gallons of paint, for example, and decorated the four floors of our communal Glaswegian stairwell, spending all available free time making the shared areas beautiful (including the railings outside). This, I started to believe, would send A Powerful Message to our pizza-eating neighbours. And it did. They immediately and forever after viewed me as their go-to guy if something went wrong in the stair. I was their new Someone To Complain At.

These things really hurt, these kind of disappointments, but we (used to) soldier on. Weh mir.

As yet undeterred: “I just saw your advert in a window. You’re looking for a stand-in volunteer for your writing thingy. I’ll do that. I’m a smart middle-class boy with way too much time on his hands. I don’t even hate poor people that much. What’s the worst that could happen?” Or words to a similarly rousing effect.

These hurt, broken, stinky wee souls were at the “….and then I woke up and it had all been a dream!!!!” stage in their writing careers – this much was apparent from their clothes. But that’s okay. We’ve all been there – although most of us were six - and at least they wanted to write.

Our best fun together in those few short weeks were the times we spent mauling clichés (in 100 words or less); blithely unaware, I imagine, that we were all of us - in that bleak, damp room - a collection of clichés ourselves.

I won every time – I played judge, after all, and would announce myself winner to an outrage of groans having built their suspense to a fever – and one night it was almost too easy. We blindly picked our scribbled clichés from the hat on the table and mine was you know what they say about men with big feet. Clichés are revolting, comrades, so let's make them even more so, okay? On your marks.....

[Be advised that the following link is very intentionally coarse and vulgar. You miss nothing by skipping past it should these things offend. So please, no complaints this time? I'm presently unwilling to respond to such letters.]

Some mere moments later and….bang.

Anyway, I was reminded of this excitingly vile piece of writing a while back when my new shoes arrived in the post. I think you know you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere in life when your shoes arrive in the post. (I’ve already mentioned this fact, using these exact same words, whilst alluding to these shoes some months back. I daresay you were drunk at the time, oblivious.)

Be that as it may, the shoes are one size too big.

How are the new shoes?
Hmm? [Buying time. You know very well what she asked.] Oh, fine.
I’m sorry, then, for suggesting that buying shoes on the internet was a crazily stupid idea.
S’okay. [Hurt - and yet magnanimously forgiving.]
Let’s have a look then.
I’m dying.

See, I think it’s maybe okay to distract someone every once in a while with a carefully aimed lie - but you probably need to watch out. You may suddenly find yourself waaaay down the path of planning your own funeral and suffering the unsettling monotony of another person’s grief before finally snapping back to your day job.

And then, of course, there’s the weight issue: people are going to want to see a bit of weight-loss for their money.

If you’ve been dying these past five months, mister, then how comes you’ve not got any thinner?
Hmm? Oh. Maybe all the cakes and grapes and beer and stuff I’ve been having in bed? Sort of masking the effects, acting as a temporary counterbalance? I think I read about it somewhere. And people have been very generous.
Not all of them.
Good point.

Blimey. I never knew she was so calculating. I’ll need to watch her, I can see, in the event of an imaginary illness. But it would let you know who your friends were, wouldn’t it? Fake-dying, I mean. You’d soon see who liked you. And when you sprang the surprise - Ta da! I’m not dying. Did I trick you? – then you’d really get to see who your friends were.

This, in the parlance of the damned, is a win-win situation, of course, as you’d be left surrounded by exactly the sort of people you might dupe at your leisure some time in a very golden future.


Wow. I could be my dad if I put my mind to it, you know? So mind your step, your wallet and what’s left of your mental health. And the only people you ever really cared for. Especially those.

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